Phil Gould previews the NRL season
Phil Gould discusses what we can expect from the season openers and also tackles the contentious issue of concussion.PT7M16S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-341xg 620 349 March 4, 2014
In the aftermath of the Roosters grand final triumph, the newly crowned premiers united in an emotional centre-field embrace in the eerie silence of a near-empty ANZ Stadium.
After 80,000 fans had dispersed, and with just a few cleaners, a couple of groundsmen and some late filing journalists left in the stadium, the Roosters created a memory they will draw on for motivation as they aim to win elusive back-to-back premierships.
Huddle heroes ... Sydney Roosters players and staff at ANZ Stadium after the grand final win in 2013.
"It was the best feeling," centre Michael Jennings said of the private midfield huddle that lasted for 45 minutes. "You were on that field when there was 80-something thousand people there and after the game there's no-one there and you're standing in dead silence. It was quite surreal. It all just sank in and we got to enjoy the moment with the team and staff that helped you achieve what we just did. It was a great moment.
"We pretty much just spoke about enjoying the fact that we just won a grand final. Enjoy it with your partners, enjoy it with the people around you. It's moments like that you never forget. It was good to cherish it and embrace it."
The Roosters are hoping the image of that moment is not simply a memory of what was a jubilant day. They are hoping it is also a glimpse of what will happen again in 213 days' time.
Special moment: Roosters captain Anthony Minichiello celebrates with fans after winning the grand final on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images
On Thursday night the champions return to the scene of their grand final triumph for the first time since that memorable day. And to add more spice to the emotional return, they do so against their arch rivals, and also possibly the biggest threats to their title defence, South Sydney.
For many, the clash is the grand final that should have been. Quite possibly, it's the grand final that still could be.
The image of the Roosters' triumphant post-premiership huddle - which involved everyone at the club, from the superstars to the unknown backroom staff - will cut deep for Michael Maguire's Rabbitohs and the club's long-suffering fans.
Leaders: Sonny Bill Williams and Trent Robinson. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Many will feel it could have been them out there.
Most people in the huddle got an opportunity to express their feelings, but it was senior players such as Anthony Minichiello, James Maloney, Mitchell Pearce and Sonny Bill Williams who did most of the talking.
"It was personal stuff about the season," coach Trent Robinson said. "It's hard to wrap up things in five or 10 minutes after a grand final, so it was more about just saying some stuff to finish the year. It was just all personal stuff and it was very special. It was just a real nice moment for everyone involved.
"It was a private time for the people that are there everyday to talk about how good it felt and thanking some players. Everyone had the chance to talk and it was a really nice moment."
The players insist there was no pledge made to undertake an identical exercise in 2014. The focus of the post-game meeting on ANZ Stadium was based on reflecting on their achievements, although Jared Waerea-Hargreaves admitted he had little to add.
"It was incredible but I didn't say a thing in that circle," he said. "I just soaked it all up. Just talking about and reliving that moment gives me goosebumps. It was pretty special to do what we did, and to do it with the boys that I classify as my brothers was amazing.
"It had been a long season, so it was pretty special for us to be out there and realise it. We just had a beer out on that field and soaked it all up. Everyone was just repeating themselves saying 'how good is this'. We were on top of the world at that time. It was a very special moment."
As for Maguire, there was nothing special about watching last year's decider after his side fell in the preliminary final for the second consecutive year. When pressed on how he felt watching the Roosters win the premiership many thought the Rabbitohs would claim, all Maguire would say was: "Yeah, I watched it."